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Outward Appearances

Yesterday I watched the first episode (is that the right word?) of Britain's Missing Top Model - a programme seeking to find a female model with a physical disability who can 'cut it' in the world of modelling.  The eight girls - six Brits and two from overseas - have a variety of disabilities, some from birth others due to accidents.  Some have very visible disabilities - missing limbs or mobility restrictions, two are deaf, one of whom has no speech and depends on a BSL interpreter.

Last night the first elimination was between the girl who speaks BSL and a girl who has had a leg amputated.  One of the issues raised when the judges were making their decision was whether the person they are after should have a visible disability.  An intriguing question - one implication of which might be that being born deaf is not disabled enough whilst having a traumatic amputation is.  I don't think that's what the judges meant, but it could have been heard that way.  I was annoyed that the associated website poll asked the question "should the eventual winner... have a visible disability" with a yes/no option.  If you answer 'yes' that means you automatically prelude a deaf girl from eligibility; if you answer 'no' you say that a visible disability precludes a person from winning; not a question I can answer.  A better question would have been 'must... she have a visible disability' - and then I'd have voted (and chosen 'no').

The question seemed to me to open up other potential avenues of debate and value judgements - and a timely reminder that whilst people look at outward appearances, God looks at the inside. 

I would not have the first clue how to select a potential model, and it is somewhat beyond me why anyone would wish to be one, but if this series manages to challenge some of the assumptions about beauty and makes people think about tough questions, then it'll achieve something worthwhile.


  • See, I'd have preferred the question "Should there be a modelling industry", then I could've voted!

  • Hahahahahahaha, a very worthwhile question that would be!

    A while ago i promised myself that i would stop using the term disabled. It was after i saw a video of 'disabled' people breakdancing, the stuff they were doing blew me away. It got me thinking that isn't being disabled actually just an abstract; an idea that i apply to people to draw boundaries around what i expect them to be able to do. The reality is that i'm constantly challenged by so-called disabled people's abilities.

    I, in no way, intend this comment to take away from how challenging it must be to live in need of a wheelchair or without sight etc. What i am saying is that i/we perhaps place a bloated value upon being able-bodied, without acknowledging our limitations, which are frequently exposed by people we refer to as being "disabled".

  • Tim, rats, wish I'd thought of that.

    Andy, yup, I tend to agree. Disabled was their word not mine. As it was portrayed, it was judge who is a wheelchair user who appeared to be suggesting that deafness was less valuable as a role model because it is not visible in the way that, say, an amputation is. I'm not saying that's what she thought, but that's they way it came over. All are disabled but some are more overtly disabled than others - to plagiarise wildly.

The comments are closed.